With hand sanitizer and other disinfectants running low around the world, people are looking for more innovative ways to help protect themselves against the coronavirus. Cue the wellness gurus advertising a wealth of superfoods and supplements, often expensive, to help "boost" your immune system and protect against the virus.
While eating a healthy diet is still important in the midst of an epidemic, no single food or diet has been shown to cure or prevent disease, according to experts.
"We can't prevent getting coronavirus by taking vitamins and eating oranges. It's a very infectious disease," Dr. Caroline Apovian, Director of the Nutrition and Weight Management Center at Boston Medical Center, told Business Insider.
No food or supplement can prevent or cure the coronavirus if you've been exposed to it
Many nutritionists, wellness fanatics, and medical professionals tout the health benefits of a balanced diet. But while that's certainly important for overall health, particularly long-term, piling on the kale right now isn't going to help your odds against getting the coronavirus.
It is true that malnutrition can impair your ability to fight off illness and infection — research shows that a severe lack of calories or key vitamins and nutrients is linked to a increased risk of death from multiple causes, including infectious diseases. It can also prevent wounds from healing quickly.
However, that's not the case for most otherwise healthy adults with ample access to nutritious food. If you're not in the habit of eating a variety of fruits, veggies, and lean sources of protein, now is a good time to start. Following common-sense dietary advice is enough to keep your immune system in good shape, no superfoods required, according to Apovian. In particular, you want to make sure to get enough vitamin C, vitamin D, and zinc.
But there's little evidence that eating extraordinary amounts of veggies (or anything else) can "supercharge" your immune system.
"If you're in contact with coronavirus, it doesn't matter how many oranges you eat, you're going to get it," Apovian said.
Eating well can, however, make your recovery easier if you do get sick, from coronavirus or anything else, she added.
"The only thing that a healthy diet and being in shape will do is make sure if and when you get sick, it won't be as severe," Apovian said.